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Letter to the Mayor and Members of Council, City of Oshawa re: revised residential licensing bylaw

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February 11, 2008

Mayor John Grey and Members of Council
City of Oshawa
c/o Sandra Kranc, City Clerk
5th Floor, Rundle Tower, City Hall
50 Centre Street South
Oshawa, Ontario L1H 3Z7

We understand that Oshawa City Council is holding a meeting tonight to discuss a proposed bylaw that would limit student housing options in designated neighbourhoods around the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College.

Strong feelings have been raised on both sides of this issue. Homeowners have expressed concern that their community has changed in ways they had not foreseen. On the other hand, students fear losing their housing in a city with few affordable alternatives.

City of Oshawa is working to address these competing interests, but the bylaw being considered raises human rights concerns. Laws that keep young people out of certain neighbourhoods would be just as discriminatory as laws that keep out families or racialized people.

In our recent consultation on rental housing in Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Commission heard about the critical shortage of affordable rental housing across Ontario. We heard about the adverse impacts of exclusionary zoning, and the need to promote, not limit, basement apartments and other affordable housing options. We also heard from students, in particular, about how age discrimination in rental housing affects them.

The Commission will be publishing its findings and some recommended action steps this spring. In the meantime, I urge Oshawa City Council members to look closely at what has been proposed, to apply a sound city-wide planning rationale, and to consider the human rights impacts of its decisions.

Yours truly,
Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, PhD (hon.)
Chief Commissioner